The Power Of Delusion

Whether you call it self-delusion, magical thinking, wishful thinking or whatever, this is powerful juju. My old Progressive acquaintance was not phased by my mockery or the facts I later sent him. In fact, he has only grown more deluded over the years. He’s now one of those old guys who still wears an “I’m With Her” t-shirt and tells people he is a moderate libertarian. It’s not that he is a liar or crazy, it’s that he so desperately wants this image he has of himself to be true, that he has convinced himself it is fact.

It is not just lefty cult members who are prone to self-delusion. Magical thinking is just the grease that makes the gears of life turn smoothly for people. All of us engage in some degree of it. In fact, it may be a requirement of leadership. Read the biographies of great leaders and you almost always find that they had an extreme over-confidence in their abilities. Often, they believed it was their destiny to achieve greatness. It was what pushed them to conquer the world or accomplish some great contribution to humanity.

At the same time, over-the-top belief in some cause is the driving force behind the great evils of history. Stalin was not mindlessly evil. He believed he was on the side of the righteous, just as the Nazis, Chinese communists and other murderous movements of the last century believed they were on the side of good. The Allies in World War II incinerated cities full of women and children, in order to break the will of the other side, because they thought they were fighting a just cause. The self-righteous make the best killers.

The power of self-delusion is not just the belief in some cause, but belief in the face of available evidence. It’s the conflict between the delusion and reality that is the chemical reaction, releasing energy the believers harness. The American Left refers to themselves as the “resistance” even though they are in complete control. It seems that the greater the gap between observable reality and the delusion, the more fanatical the believer. That conflict between reality and the delusion releases energy in relation to its contrast.


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